HK Leader Urges End to Protests

HK Leader Urges End to ProtestsHK Leader Urges End to Protests

Hong Kong leader CY Leung has urged protesters to “immediately” stop their campaign, as huge crowds continue to bring parts of the territory to a standstill.

The protesters want Beijing to give Hong Kong free and open elections for the city’s chief executive in 2017.

“Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop,” Leung said.

“I’m now asking them to fulfill the promise they made to society, and stop this campaign immediately.”

The protests began a week ago with a class boycott by university and college students demanding reforms of the local legislature.

Leaders of the broader Occupy Central civil disobedience movement joined the protesters early Sunday, saying they wanted to kick-start a long-threatened mass sit-in demanding Hong Kong’s top leader be elected without Beijing’s interference.

 Beijing ‘Won’t Back Down’

However, he said Beijing would not back down from an August decision to restrict voting reforms for the first direct elections to pick his successor in 2017.

“The central government will not rescind its decision,” he said.

The protesters also want Leung to step down. But he appeared to reject this, saying such a move would represent a step backwards.

Leung urged Occupy Central to take into account the considerations of other residents and stop its protest, which has snarled traffic and disrupted public transport for days.

 Chaos Reigning

On Monday night, tens of thousands blocked streets. By Tuesday morning, the crowd, mostly students, continued to occupy a six-lane highway next to the local government headquarters. The encampment was also edging closer to the heart of the city’s financial district. Officials announced that schools in some districts of the former British colony would remain closed Tuesday because of safety concerns, while dozens of bus routes were canceled and some subway stops near protest areas were closed.

While many Hong Kong residents support the calls for greater democracy — dubbed the “umbrella revolution” by some, although the crowds’ demands fall far short of revolution — the unrest worries others.

“I strongly disagree with the protesters,” said an older woman who gave only her surname, Chan. “Those of us who came to the city 60 or 70 years ago had nothing and we worked and suffered so much to make Hong Kong the rich city it is today. And now the protesters have made our society unstable.”

 Police Defend Tactics

China has called the protests illegal and endorsed the Hong Kong government’s efforts to quell the demonstrations, which are undermining the city’s image as a safe financial haven.

Police said they used 87 rounds of tear gas Sunday in what they called a necessary but restrained response to protesters pushing through cordons and barricades. They said 41 people were injured, including 12 police officers.

Police defended their use of tear gas and other methods to control the pro-democracy protests that have paralyzed Hong Kong’s financial district, and appealed Monday for an end to the unprecedented acts of civil disobedience.

“Police cordon lines were heavily charged by some violent protesters. So police had to use the minimum force in order to separate the distance at that moment between the protesters and also the police,” said Cheung Tak-keung, the assistant police commissioner for operations.